Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Designing the Best Study Space With Your Child

1.  Location, Location, Location – When I was in high school, I did most of my homework (math really sticks out) on my bunk bed at 10 pm at night with my younger sister asleep in the bed below me.  What an awful spot!  Yet, it is where I felt the most comfortable and in our house with six children, two parents, and a dog, privacy was pretty uncommon.  I’m not suggesting that your student (especially younger ones!) do their homework in bed, but ask them where and why they do their homework and where else they might like to.  Perhaps they just want to be around people when they do their homework.  But perhaps this may be too distracting…then again…maybe their room is too distracting.  Try spots for a few days and agree on the best one.


2.  Materials – As any teacher knows more time can be wasted looking for a pencil, pen, marker, or eraser than on any other issue in the classroom.  Don’t make this an issue at home.  Have your student set up the area before school starts with packs of pencils, a sharpener, pens, erasers, tape, etc.  Go shopping before school starts and get the homework center with materials set up.  By the way, if your student is famous for forgetting their books at school, go with your child and ask the guidance counselor for a second set.  Many people think this is not helping their child be responsible and it may be, but it may also be a convenient excuse to not do homework.


3.  Computer – As middle schoolers continue through their career, they will need to use the computer more often for school projects.  Decide when each child gets access to the computer or signs up to use it if you have more than one child who may need it.  Consider getting a second computer or laptop or see if the school could provide one.  Many schools are supplying laptops (even for weekends).  If your child has many projects or few on the computer, be sure to have several flashdrives that all look different.  One can be for everything or one can be for several classes or items outside school.  Be sure to set up folders on the desktop with your child and one for each subject along with on the flashdrive so you all know where each item goes so there is not a long list of documents by week 4.


4.  Timing – Timing is everything for homework.  As seen in The Crumpled Paper Book (one of my favorites!), students often underestimate how much time it takes to do homework, after school activities, projects, eat dinner, and spend time with family.  Many students say…”I’ll do it later…” or “I don’t have much…”  Training your students to break down how much homework he has, name each class and homework (including studying for tests…which IS homework), break down projects into steps and make sure all the necessary materials are there.


5.  Supervision – The age-old question…do I sit there while my student does homework.  Quick answer…”It all depends…”  Each child has different needs, but in general, middle school students should be learning to do work independently and use their own organizational system.  Does that mean you shouldn’t work with them to achieve this goal?  It may be necessary for you to supervise and keep her on track during the beginning of the semester…or more.  Be sure to keep in touch with guidance counselors during this time to see what their thoughts are and the amount of work for your child.


6.  Resources – Does your child have what it takes to get the work done?  Internet access?  A trip to the library?  Resources are vital to the success of homework, but more often they are needed for projects.  If your student needs art supplies, foam board, etc, you should know about this before the project is due the next day.  So when you find out about a school project, be sure to ask for the directions and see the project assignment yourself to discuss the needs with your student.  By the way, if your child’s school has assignments posted online, be sure to know how to access the online postings yourself as well as your child.


7.  Noise/Light/Temp – I once did a little quiz in a women’s magazine about the space in our old home.  They asked, what room do you least like going in and why.  I discovered…to my dismay, that it was our study…the room I needed to prepare for teaching and use the computer…this was before laptops…imagine!  I unearthed in my deep psyche why that was and I discovered that I really didn’t like the lack of light (both natural and unnatural) and the temperature…it was always cold or in the summer, always hot.  Is that what your child’s study space is?  Be sure to discuss this with your student and rearrange a few lamps if necessary to create the best working space possible

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
 from our Tutor Doctor Longmont Family to yours!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hand-written Thank You Notes: A Great Learning Opportunity

The holidays are a mixed bag for parents who enjoy spending time with family but may be struggling to keep their bored students occupied. One tradition that has been neglected in modern society is the hand-written ‘Thank You’ note. Writing ‘Thank You’ notes not only helps to establish ties with family and friends, it perpetuates a wonderful Christmas traditional and helps students remember all they have to be thankful for.
It’s good for you!
A recent study showed that writing ‘Thank You’ notes actually reduces anxiety and stress. This is because when you take the time out to write about all the things you are thankful for, you realize how much you have.
‘Thank You’ notes help to strengthen family ties and friendships and teach students appreciation. Thank you notes also teach the art of good manners and diplomacy. If your student masters these skills, they will be able to navigate social and (later in life) professional circles with ease. Good manners set you apart from the crowd and effective networking is what makes for a happy, well-adjusted adult.
How to go about it
Start by recording all the gifts your students get over the festive season. Provide them with stationary or let them make their own. For most students, writing all their ‘Thank You’ notes at once may be a bit daunting, so it’s best to spread it out over several days.
Let your students pick out the ‘Thank You’ note stationary, or let them decorate cards with stamps, scrapbooking supplies or pictures that they can draw or paint.
Your students only have to write a sentence or two in each note, so try to encourage creativity with wording.
Learning opportunity
Writing ‘Thank You’ notes is a great exercise in grammar and spelling. Students can develop language and communication skills while practicing their handwriting. It can be fun for them to experiment with different styles of handwriting too.

Sure, emails and text messages may be quicker, but nothing shows appreciation quite like getting a hand-written message in the mail. If your students enjoy receiving mail, you can carry on the writing tradition by getting them pen pals in exotic locations.
It may seem old fashioned, but a hand-written thank you note is a wonderful way to express appreciation for the thoughtfulness of a friend or family member. ‘Thank You’ notes are a great holiday tradition that should be preserved. They have the power to teach a number of valuable lessons and will help your student to appreciate all that they have received and show their appreciation in a meaningful way.

Does your child need help with language arts? Contact Tutor Doctor Longmont today for a free consultation. 

photo:  picture is courtesy of Robert Barney and the link is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/r_b/

Thursday, December 18, 2014

10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling At My Kids

read more at : http://theorangerhino.com/10-things-i-learned-when-i-stopped-yelling-at-my-kids/

399 days of loving more!
Someone asked me this past weekend, “So, what were your findings from not yelling for a year? Did you learn anything?” Huh. Pretty good question. And it got me thinking, “Well, what did I learn?” I’ll tell you this; I learned a lot, a lot more than I can possible fit in a blog post! So I share with you the top 10 things that I learned from my Orange Rhino Challenge where I promised to not yell at my 4 boys for 365 days straight.

1. Yelling isn’t the only thing I haven’t done in a year (399 days to be exact!) I also haven’t gone to bed with a gut-wrenching pit in my stomach because I felt like the worst mom ever. I haven’t bawled to my husband that I yelled again and again. And I haven’t heard my sons scream, “You’re the meanest, worstest, mommy in the whole world, I don’t love you anymore!” Yep, I learned real quickly that there are upsides to not yelling!

2. My kids are my most important audience. When I had my “no more yelling epiphany,” I realized that I don’t yell in the presence of others because I want them to believe I am a loving and patient mom.  The truth is, I already was that way…but rarely when I was alone, just always when I was in public with an audience to judge me. This is so backwards! I always have an audience – my four boys are always watching me and THEY are the audience that matters most; they are the ones I want to show just how loving, patient and “yell-free” I can be. I want my boys to judge me and proclaim, “My mommy is the bestest mommy ever!” I remember this whenever I am home and thinking I can’t keep it together; obviously I can…I do it out and about all the time!

3. Kids are just kids; and not just kids, but people too. Like me, my kids have good days and bad days. Some days they are pleasant and sweet and listen really well; other days they are grumpy and difficult. By the way, I am always sweet and never difficult. Always. Ha! And like all kids, my boys are loud at times, they refuse to put their shoes on, and they color on the wall, especially if it is covered in brand new wallpaper that mommy loves. So, yeah, I need to watch my expectations and remember that my boys are kids: they are still learning, still growing, and still figuring out how to handle waking up on the wrong side of the bed. When they “make mistakes” I need to remember that not only does yelling not help, but like me, they don’t like to be yelled at!

4. I can’t always control my kids’ actions, but I can always control my reaction. I can try my hardest to follow all the parenting tricks of the trade for well-disciplined children, but since my kids are just kids, they sometimes won’t do what I want. I can decide if I want to scream “Pick up your Legos! ” when they don’t listen or if I want to walk away for a second, regain composure by doing some jumping jacks, and then return with a new approach. P.S. Walking away and taking a breather can actually get the Legos picked up faster than yelling.

5. Yelling doesn’t work. There were numerous times when I wanted to quit my Orange Rhino Challenge, when I thought yelling would just be easier than finding deep breaths and creative alternatives to yelling. But I knew better. Early on, I learned that yelling simply doesn’t work, that it just makes things spiral out of control and it makes it hard for my boys to hear what I want them to learn. How can they clearly here me “say” “Hurry up, get your backpacks, your shoes, your jackets, don’t touch each other, go faster, you an do it yourself!” when it’s all a garbled, loud mix of intimidating orders that are making them cry?

6. Incredible moments can happen when you don’t yell. One night I heard footsteps coming downstairs well after bedtime. Although infuriated that my “me-time” was interrupted, I remained calm and returned said child to bed. As I tucked him in he said “Mommy, will you love me if I go to heaven first, because if you go first, I will still love you. In fact, I will always love you.” Tears still come to my eyes just writing that. I can guarantee if I had yelled “GET BACK IN BED!” we never would have had that sweet, very important conversation.

7. Not yelling is challenging, but it can be done! I am not going to say not yelling is “easy peasy,” but getting creative with alternatives certainly made it easier and more doable. And after yelling into the toilet, beating my chest like a gorilla, singing Lalala, Lalala it’s Elmo’s world, and using orange napkins at mealtime as a reminder of my promise, it certainly got a heck of a lot easier. Sure, I feel silly at times doing these things, but they keep me from losing it. So do my new favorite words: “at least.”  These two small words give me great perspective and remind me to chill out. I use them readily in any annoying but not yell worthy kid situation. “He just dropped an entire jug of milk on the floor…at least it wasn’t glass and at least he was trying to help!”

8. Often times, I am the problem, not my kids. The break-up line, “It’s not you, it’s me” rings uncomfortably true when learning not to yell.  I quickly realized that oftentimes I wanted to yell because I had a fight with my husband, I was overwhelmed by my to-do list, I was tired or it was that time of the month, not because the kids were behaving “badly.” I also quickly realized that acknowledging my personal triggers by saying out loud: “Orange Rhino, you have wicked PMS and need chocolate, you aren’t mad at the kids, don’t yell” works really well to keep yells at bay
9. Taking care of me helps me to not yell. I was always great at taking care of others; I was not, however, always good at taking care of myself until now. Once I realized that personal triggers like feeling overweight, feeling disconnected from friends, and feeling exhausted set me up to yell, I started taking care of me. I started going to bed earlier, prioritizing exercise, trying to call one friend a day and most importantly, I started telling myself it’s okay to not be perfect. Taking care of me not only helps me not yell, but it also makes me happier, more relaxed, and more loving. Ah, the benefits of not yelling extend far beyond parenting! There is no doubt that I am in a better parenting AND personal place now that I don’t yell. Just to name a few unexpected benefits of not yelling: I do more random acts of kindness, I handle stressful situations more gracefully, and I communicate more lovingly with my husband.

10. Not yelling feels awesome. Now that I have stopped yelling, not only do I feel happier and calmer, I also feel lighter. I go to bed guilt-free (except for the extra cookie I ate that day, oops) and wake-up more confident that I can parent with greater understanding of my kids, my needs, and how to be more loving and patient.  And I am pretty sure my kids feel happier and calmer too. I know everyone wants to read, “I stopped yelling and not only do I feel great, but also my kids are now calmer AND perfectly behaved.“ Well, they aren’t. They are still kids. But, yes tantrums are shorter and some are completely avoided. Now that I am calmer, I can think more rationally to resolve potential problems before meltdown mania.  But forget perfectly behaved kids for a second. My kids are most definitely more loving towards me, and now tell me quite often “I love you Orange Rhino mommy!” and that feels more than awesome, it feels phenomenal.